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The Battle of Lecco 1809 (part 1)

Updated: Apr 17

This fictional scenario was inspired by the real Battle of Lecco which took place on 26th April 1799, during the Russian campaign against the French in northern Italy. You can find some info on the original battle here, but my inspiration actually came mainly from the map in Christopher Duffy's book Eagles Over The Alps.

I'm always interested in scenarios that avoid the rather too familiar option of lining equal forces up opposite each other, then advancing forward until some fighting takes place. Lecco seemed to fit the bill for a really interesting scenario. For my fictional battle, the action moved forward to 1809 and involved the French and Austrians, with rather larger forces than the original encounter, which was quite small.

I got together with three old wargaming friends to fight the battle, including Roy Boss who hosted and once again provided his outstanding Hinton Hunt figures. We used infantry units of 24 figures, which gave an infantry battalion in line a frontage of about 6". The Hinton Hunts were sold as 25mm figures back in the day, but are more equivalent to a modern 20mm figure in size. The sketch map below shows the basic table layout for a 6' x 4' table.

The river and stream can only be crossed by the bridges. The French objectives are the town and main river bridge. The latter can be defended by an earthwork capable of containing a maximum of 2 infantry units and an artillery battery. Some fields or woods can be added for variety, but I suggest the terrrain be kept mostly open, for a game with plenty of free manoeuvring.

The forces were as follows:

French Main Force

2 x Infantry brigades, of 3 battalions each

1 x Heavy cavalry brigade, of 2 regiments

3 x medium artillery batteries

French Reinforcements

1 x Infantry brigade, of 3 battalions

1 x Light cavalry brigade, of 2 regiments

2 x medium artillery batteries

The French main force enters the table on move 1 from the north (‘French arrival 1’). The reinforcements arrive from the south-east on move 3 if they roll a 5 or 6. If not, they can arrive the next turn on a 4, 5 or 6 - and so on (‘French arrival 2’).

Austrians (on table at game start)

2 x Infantry brigades, of 3 battalions each

1 x heavy cavalry brigade, of 2 regiments

3 x medium artillery batteries

Austrian Reinforcements

1 x infantry brigade, of 2 battalions and 1 medium artillery battery

The Austrian on-table forces can set up anywhere inside the dotted line, except that one artillery battery must be on the hill south of the bridge over the main river. The reinforcements arrive on the first turn in march column along the road from the south - if they roll a 5 or 6. Once again, if they fail, roll again at the start of the next turn, needing a 4, 5 or 6, and so on.

I suggest unit quality on both sides is adjusted as per the chapter 'Grande Armée Under Pressure' in the rule book - the exact details I leave up to those playing. The same goes for quality of brigade commanders - but remember, the French can allocate their commanders after assessing their quality, whilst the Austrians must allocate their commanders first, before establishing their quality. The opposing army generals should both be 'capable'.

It is OK to assume the Austrians are aware of the French force arriving from the south-east and can deploy accordingly. However, if you have the services of an umpire, you might want to give the Austrians a surprise!

Getting It Wrong

The first time we played this scenario out, the Austrians had no reinforcements and we left out the earthwork at the bridge (which was part of the original battle). The Austrians were also forced to keep their cavalry and two artillery batteries south of the river at game start. They then received a sound thrashing, and it seemed obvious the scenario needed adjusting.

I had forgotten (not having played the rules for a while) that SotE deliberately gives defending forces, even when in cover, a limited advantage, and that therefore, even in an attack-defence scenario, forces can be pretty equal and still give a fair game. So for the second game, the scenario conditions as given above were to be used - and we made sure to include the earthwork.

Here are a few photos from the first game. The re-play is scheduled for April, so I'll let you know how that went in part 2.

Three merry gamers before the battle.

The French made a predictable dash for the northern bridge, which was parried by the Austrians - but sadly they chose an 'inferior' unit for the job. Oops.

Some double moves from the 'inspiring' French brigadiers saw Lecco outflanked. Here, the Austrian left wing battery is overrun, and the French prepare to rampage through the town.

Lecco is captured, and French cavalry filters forward over the southern stream bridge. An Austrian hearse conveys the remains of a brigadier, under truce. It's game over.

So, if you try this scenario out, be sure to post the results on the forum. I'll see you in a month or so and we'll see how the second game went!

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